PRC continues discussion about the San Juan Generating Station, Energy Transition Act

PNM files a brief outlining why the Energy Transition Act should apply to the San Juan Generating Station case

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Nearly two months have passed since Public Service Company filed an application with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to cease operations at the remaining two units of the San Juan Generating Station.

Those two months were filled with arguments about whether a new law — the Energy Transition Act — applies to the case. If the act does apply, the PRC has until April to issue a final order on the application.

That timeframe became more complicated this week when several environmental groups led by New Energy Economy filed a writ in the New Mexico Supreme Court on Aug. 26  to prevent the Energy Transition Act from being applied to the case.

MORE:PNM accuses PRC of using docket as a political weapon to block new energy policies

The environmental coalition also asked the state Supreme Court to place a stay on the PRC proceedings, PRC counsel Judith Amer told the PRC during its Aug. 28 meeting.

The announcement that PNM planned to cease operations at the San Juan Generating Station in 2022 was the catalyst for the state Legislature passing the Energy Transition Act this year.

The advocacy groups argue the law itself is unconstitutional and limits the PRC's ability to protect ratepayers. 

On Aug. 28 the commission discussed the situation, and how best to deal with this complicated and evolving set of circumstances as the clock keeps ticking.

Timelines remain a concern at the PRC

With the number of arguments surrounding the case, some members of the PRC are worried about the timeline, among them Commissioner Stephen Fischmann. During the Aug. 28 PRC meeting, Fischmann once again asked PNM to consider waiving the statutory requirements.

Regardless of which law is applied, the PRC has a limited timeframe to make a decision.

Fischmann said he understands the need for a timely decision. He has expressed concerns over the course of several meetings that the case could get stuck in a long, drawn out court battle if the PRC does not have a ruling from the state Supreme Court before it makes a decision on the application.

MORE:Applicability of new law remains unclear as PRC debates San Juan Generating Station case

At the same time, he said he understands why PNM declined the request made last week to place the timelines on hold.

PNM issued a statement Aug. 26 saying the utility is confident the Energy Transition Act is constitutional and will be upheld by the state Supreme Court.

San Juan Generating Station is pictured on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 in Waterflow.

PNM argues law should apply to San Juan Generating Station case

Amer also walked the PRC through a brief PNM filed on Aug. 23. The brief outlines why it believes the Energy Transition Act should be applied.

The utility rebutted the argument that the case was ongoing when the law took effect. It said PNM did not file the application until weeks after the law went into effect. 

On the other side, some PRC commissioners have said a docket opened in January meant the case was ongoing when the law was passed. Under that interpretation, the state constitution would prevent the Energy Transition Act from applying. 

MORE:Farmington, Enchant Energy one step closer to keeping San Juan Generating Station open

The San Juan Generating Station is seen on Nov. 6, 2013, in Waterflow.

The January case ordered PNM to file to cease operations at the San Juan Generating Station by March 1. The state Supreme Court placed a stay on the order that was not lifted until after the Energy Transition Act became effective.

PNM also urged the PRC to make a decision quickly on which law will be applied. If the case is delayed, PNM warns the contracts for replacement power could expire. That would likely mean PNM would have to enter into more expensive contracts for replacing the power it currently receives from San Juan Generating Station.

Not applying the Energy Transition Act to the case would also remove the economic assistance the financing agreement would provide to impacted workers and communities. 

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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